This Hyphenated Life / An American Jewish holiday
The time has come for Jews to officially adopt a 'gentile' holiday as our own. Gobble. Gobble. Gobble.
The last thing the Jewish people need is another holiday. There are so many of them on our calendar already, that most Jews, at least in America, have a hard time even explaining Simchat Torah, let alone Lag B'Omer.
Nevertheless, the time has come to let in a little fresh air, shake it up and officially adopt a 'gentile' holiday as our own. Gobble. Gobble. Gobble.
It seems like the chaggim just ended and Chanukah is only a month away - hardly the time to suggest that a people suffering from Excessive Holiday Syndrome amid a 5,000 year-old tradition take yet another day off.
Yet, the temptation is too hard to resist. Think of it as our just reward for all the traditions that other cultures have swiped from ours. As we begin to survey what holidays we could 'inherit' from other world religions, it's time to get into that Judeo-Christian spirit.
Mind you, this additional holiday should NOT be a time for introspection, fasting or the commemoration of surviving yet another attack by an ancient foe. For goodness sake, we have enough of that heaviness already.
Admit it: Many Jews would actually have a really good time noshing on ham, saying a blessing over eggnog, chanting carols and honoring one of the most famous Jews of all - Jesus himself.
Even though I had a couple slips and tried it, Christmas is way too formidable a threat to Jewish continuity to experiment with - just look at how many members of the tribe it's already taken off our reservation. And while the painted eggs and rabbits are cute, the coming back to life part of Easter, might be a little too 'supernatural' for some Jews to accept.
Other candidates are similar non-starters: Do some digging and you'll find that Valentine's Day and Halloween are similarly un-kosher - after all, they're named for saints.
The only contender is the best American holiday of all and one that, even most frum (observant) American Jews have been able to celebrate with gusto for generations.
I'm talking about Thanksgiving, of course.
You don't go to church, and it has no reported link to any tragedy that has befallen our people. It is simply good. Good to give thanks. Good not to over think it all. Even good to connect with relatives - functional and dysfunctional alike. Good to invite old and new friends into our homes to the familiar smells of stuffing and pumpkin pie in the kitchen and American football in the living room. You never have to worry about it falling on Shabbat, the meat's kosher, and the holiday is too.
As such, we Jews in America have an obligation to no longer hoard this goodness to ourselves, but export this holiday to our brothers and sisters in other lands - much as our Egyptian and Persian ancestors gave us the impetus for Passover and Purim - and there's no better place to start than Israel.
'Im kvar ahz kvar' - if you're already doing it, then do it already! It's no secret that Israel is becoming more and more Americanized every year. Having Israel become the first foreign country to officially adopt Thanksgiving would be a fitting gesture, thanking America for all its support and economic and military aid and a boon to Israeli businesses looking for a new reason to have a post Thanksgiving day sale during tough economic times. OK, so I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the point.
In fact, one of my most memorable Thanksgivings was in Israel in '95. Thanksgiving is the natural day for American-Israelis to proudly celebrate their dual identity in a way that is more heartfelt and uniquely American than July 4th. Some Israelis I know might take credit for the invention of the BBQ, but even the most chutzpah-like among them/us will not try to steal Thanksgiving's Thunder.
I can still remember the turkey (and gravy) slipping off my knees in the back seat while my friend Rob speeded to our Israeli Thanksgiving dinner in Ramat HaSharon, and I can tell you that it is just as tasty outside of North America - maybe even more.
Turkey over Thanksgiving cures the homesickness suffered by American immigrants in Israel better than chicken soup cures the common cold. No wonder, just part of the reason friends report that spottings of Thanksgiving Turkeys in Israel have increased by 180% since I returned to America.
"In Friendly Fire," A.B. Yeshua's new book, describes a character who moves to Africa and gives up any interest in his native Israel, throwing away even the channukah candles that his sister-in-law asks him to light.
Downright heretical, I thought, and 'sad' as my son said when I read him the passage. On other hand, perhaps the author is identifying and embracing the 'inner gentile' in us all that just wants to give "it" - i.e. our obsession with Judaism and Israel - a break once in a while. As the old Yiddish saying says, "it's hard to be a Jew," and Thanksgiving lets us be like every other American, without compromising one iota of our Jewish identity.
Isn't that part of the beautiful thing about Thanksgiving? (We'll leave reports that many young people today see Thanksgiving as a time to recount how cruel early Americans were to the Native Americans for another time).
You can put your own beliefs to the side, for just a day, and live the collective spirit of the best of America, where ever you are. Celebrate and appreciate life and humanity, bask and baste, without any reservations.
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